Jonathan Dunn

Jonathan is the Deputy Head of a secondary school in Abu Dhabi. He is a Key Stage 4 Coordinator and has UK & International School experience.

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The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails” – John C. Maxwell

Before embarking upon a progression in your career it is essential to reflect on where you are now, where you want to go and how you wish to get there. Taking that initial leap of faith to join the international teaching circuit in 2016 was one of the best decisions I ever made, however it was not taken lightly.

Working as an international school leader allows me to collaborate with individuals from countless nationalities, cultures, religions and educational systems which significantly develops any educator. Embracing the positive aspects from the experiences of all colleagues gives a school a wonderful opportunity to blossom into an inclusive educational environment that welcomes the best parts of education systems from around the world. Unfortunately, this is often difficult to achieve in some countries that have a narrow view on what a school should be like.

With all of the wonderful benefits that do come with teaching abroad, there can be certain aspects of professional development that you have to seek yourself. By displaying a personal drive for progression, my school were extremely supportive in aiding my transition from a year leader, Key Stage leader and on a path to Senior Leadership. Completing my NPQSL, with a focus on EAL in an international setting, allowed me to contextualise my experience with theoretical study to lead a whole-school project on a key aspect of the School Development Plan.

Maintaining connection to educational developments around the world through professional social media platforms is vital for an international school leader. You can often feel disconnected if you are not pro-active. However, successful international schools hold this as a key part of their professional development platform. I would encourage any individual wishing to embark on this journey to explore those opportunities.

Having worked as a middle leader in the UK before this journey began, the skills required are similar. However, due to the transient nature of international schools (staff and students), it is even more essential to be adaptable to immediate and unpredictable change (something all educators have become accustomed to in 2020). School leadership demands integrity, resilience and diligence, among many more key characteristics. Some days are hard but you have more days that are wonderful.

My leadership philosophy is quite simple – I intend to ensure everybody reaches their potential. Developing individuals, staff and students to be better versions of themselves in every way possible is at the forefront of each decision I make. When faced with adversity, it must be seen as an opportunity. When faced with a difficult decision, show understanding alongside efficiency. When faced with an opportunity, weigh up the pros and cons and take the leap of faith.

I have worked with some wonderful educators in international schools who would flourish in any educational setting. They have stretched me, supported me, developed me and I am incredibly thankful to them all. I intend to pass this on to individuals throughout my career. The next step in my career as a Deputy Head of Secondary (Pastoral) is an opportunity to affect positive change. I welcome the challenge to develop myself and a new group of individuals.

Take the leap of faith. You will not regret it, I promise.